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From Commitments to Results: Building a Pipeline of Women CEOs

Laura Gordon - Former Managing Director
Jane Stevenson — Vice Chairman, Board & CEO Services, Korn Ferry International

When it comes to developing women leaders in Corporate America the numbers don’t lie: only 27 Fortune 500 companies are currently run by women, and women only represent 20 percent of Fortune 500 board seats.

To give credit where it is due, however, we are seeing more and more companies addressing this lack of diversity issue head on. Businesses are contributing significant time and resources to make gender equality a priority and get more women on a path to the C-suite and the boardroom, but progress has been far slower than many, including us, would like. The Rockefeller Foundation and Korn Ferry are proud to be among the organizations taking action to resolve this critical issue.

As part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100×25 campaign, an effort to reach the goal of 100 women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies by 2025, The Rockefeller Foundation and Korn Ferry are collaborating to address a crucial component of achieving gender equality in the workplace: building and sustaining a strong pipeline of women. We are intent on developing a nuanced understanding of the common strengths and areas of development that companies should focus on to build robust pipelines of high-potential women, and create programs for women that companies of all sizes can implement immediately.

The work will lead to an actionable roadmap for other companies that have set gender equity goals, but struggle to implement them from the entry-level to the C-suite.

This last element is essential and key to creating a sustainable solution to developing women leaders. We are encouraged by the growing number of U.S. companies that have taken a stand on issues surrounding women in the workplace, but we also know they need help – and proven models –  to build on and effectively advance their efforts.

Toward that end, Korn Ferry is leveraging its executive network to conduct interviews and psychometric assessments with current and recent female CEOs to identify the unique competencies, experiences, traits, and drivers that have made them successful. Learnings from the interviews will be synthesized with existing Korn Ferry data on over four million executives and findings from an analysis of high-potential female executives to develop robust tools that companies can use to identify and support high potential women within their companies.

These insights and tools will be tested with a group of beta companies to promote needed culture change and to enhance organizational programs to foster support, development, and promotion of women into executive roles. The work will lead to an actionable roadmap for other companies that have set gender equity goals, but struggle to implement them from the entry-level to the C-suite.

While our partnership kicked off just three months ago, we’ve already seen great progress. Today, we’re pleased to share that more than 55 women CEOs (both current and former CEOs from the Fortune 1000) have agreed to participate in our research.

At no time in history has the movement to address gender inequality been more of a front-page issue, but we have to maintain the momentum if we are to realize the ambitious goal of 100×25. More companies must have not only the will but the tools to dramatically grow the number of women in the C-suite and in the boardroom. Only then can our commitments to gender equality lead to real results for women in companies across our country.

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